jazz & blues music blog with news, reviews, concerts & more, with a Canadian focus

July 7, 2005

Canadian Drum Master

Written by
cindy mcleod

Canadian drummer Duris Maxwell is one of the unsung musical heroes of this nation. As I mentioned in my last post, Duris was the driving force behind the Johnny V band, as well as a couple of other groups that appeared at the Kaos Blues Festival.
Duris Maxwell 1
l-r Billy Joe Green, Jimmy Payne, Duris Maxwell, Sam Cockrell
*photo by Debby Sereda

I met Duris for the first time at the festival, but his reputation preceded him long before. This man has a musical biography that reads like a who’s who of masters, he’s worked and recorded with the likes of David Foster, Jerry Doucette, Jimi Hendrix, Heart, Jefferson Airplane, Powder Blues Band, Jim Byrnes, and fellow festival performer Billy Joe Green, just to name a few. I had the privilege of sipping coffee with Duris yesterday, a much-welcomed opportunity to get to know the man behind the talent.

Making his first professional appearance at the tender age of thirteen, Duris continues to lead the way for many of the fine drummers Canada boasts of today. He is a powerhouse, the energy the man emits during a performance is riveting aurally, visually, and spiritually. The world stands still when this man is behind the drumset, the power emoting from his sticks literally jaw dropping. He is what I consider a ‘crunchy’ drummer, crisp and clean, his technical prowess astounding. His drumming is what every musician dreams of for the foundation and heartbeat of their sound, a super-solid, unwavering strength that I liken to being carried off in the arms of Superman. It’s been said many times that it’s not what you play but the space between the notes that makes the greatest musical statement, we could all take a page out of Duris’ book on this concept.

The man himself is profound and complex, a fine mix of gentility and aggression that he so eloquently pours into his music, or if one is so blessed, a conversation. Born of the Mohawk nations, he was nurtured on the musical path first by his musician parents, followed by two drum teachers he cites as major influences. He tells me he carries their messages with him to this day. One cannot write about Duris without mentioning his intellect, he’s a highly intelligent individual that possesses an insatiable thirst for learning. It’s this gift that moved him to study law at the age of 41, obtaining his degree in an incredible three years. To illustrate, one can just as easily discuss Buddism as boxing with this man, his knowledge of both equivalent and vast. One of those rare individuals that has a keen interest in all qualities of life, he in turn weaves them into the fabric of his work and his spirit.

Duris recently moved to Calgary, and the Blues community embraced him with open arms. Don’t be fooled that’s the extent of his talent, though, he plays jazz, country, rock and roll, or funk with the same prowess, in fact he told me he hates to be slotted into any musical category, choosing to know all musical forms equally as true masters do. Although I’ve yet to have the privilege of hearing his compositions, he speaks of his body of work as voluminous, and as a testament to the broadness of his interests, one of the pieces is written for a world class figure skater, spurred by his love for classical ballet and the grace of the various expressions and forms dance takes on.

Such are the gifts of being a musician, fan, and producer, for I’m offered these sacred encounters with exceptional individuals such as Duris. You’ve changed my life for the better, Mr. Maxwell.

One comment for this post.

  1. Comment from tom on December 24th, 2007 :

    The first time I say Duris play was in Calgary when he was with Doucette. He changed my life for the better. I have nothing but respect for the man. He has it all. He is the musician’s musician and he is a very down to earth human being. God Bless him. Would have been awsome to see him play with Hendrix. Lord have mercy. He is an inspiration to me and will be always.

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